Category Government

REPUBLICANS OBSTRUCTING NOMINEES AGAIN

ABSTRACT: The Republicans are back to blocking the President’s nominees for judgeships and executive branch positions by filibustering. Currently, there are roughly 90 vacancies for judgeships. In terms of Executive Branch nominees, the Chair of the Federal Reserve and the Secretary of Homeland Security are among those waiting for Senate confirmation. Senate Democrats are again […]

LACK OF GOOD JOBS IS OUR MOST URGENT PROBLEM

ABSTRACT: The most urgent problem facing the US right now is a lack of jobs, especially jobs that pay middle class wages and provide benefits. Unemployment is high and long-term. The jobs being created during our 4 year old economic recovery are disproportionately low-wage, low skill jobs. Fast food workers are emblematic of the low […]

WHY IS THE GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN?

ABSTRACT: The federal government’s shutdown for lack of a budget has nothing to do with the deficit or democracy; rather, it has everything to do with politics, ideology, and the tyranny of a minority. The extreme wing of the Republican Party, without the support in Congress to pass legislation and having lost the last election, […]

“TRADE” AGREEMENTS & CORPORATE POWER

ABSTRACT: The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “trade” treaty that is currently being negotiated (see post of 9/10) would give corporations the right to sue governments if their laws, regulations, or actions negatively affect current or expected future profits. Under existing trade agreements, over $380 million has already been paid to corporations by governments. Furthermore, there are […]

“TRADE” AGREEMENT SUPERSIZES CORPORATE POWER

ABSTRACT: The US is currently negotiating a trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The negotiations have been so secretive that most members of Congress have never seen a draft of the treaty and the public is mostly unaware of its existence. The mainstream (corporate) media have hardly mentioned the TPP, despite its target […]

UPDATES ON POSTS ON LOW PAY FOR FAST-FOOD WORKERS, PESTICIDES AND BEES, & DETROIT

PAY FOR WORKERS IN THE FAST-FOOD INDUSTRY (A follow-up to my 9/2/13 post) As the portion of the jobs in our economy that are in the retail sector grows, it is important to the well-being of individuals and families, as well as the health of the economy, that these jobs provide better pay. But could […]

LABOR DAY AND THE MIDDLE CLASS

ABSTRACT: Labor Day is a time to celebrate the contributions working people make to our country. But with unemployment still high, inequality on the uptick, and the middle class shrinking and under serious financial strain, many working families just don’t have much to celebrate. For 30 years, wages for the middle and lower income workers […]

DETROIT’S BANKRUPTCY

ABSTRACT: Detroit’s bankruptcy is the result of a long term decline with many contributing factors. Detroit’s bankruptcy proceeding will favor the big financial corporations because of federal bankruptcy laws, which give priority to paying off financial firms’ interest rate swaps before paying pensions or bond holders. If Detroit ends up cutting workers’ pensions and defaulting […]

THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT PART II

ABSTRACT: Other than the individual mandate (see 8/19 post), the biggest focus of resistance to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been the expansion of Medicaid, the health insurance program for low income individuals. If all states implement the Medicaid expansion called for by the ACA, over 21 million individuals, including 4.5 million children, who […]

THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT PART I

ABSTRACT: As implementation of another key piece of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (also known as Obama Care) approaches, the information and disinformation in the media and from the opposition builds. On January 1, 2014, the “exchanges” – where individuals can purchase health insurance if they don’t have it – will begin operation. On October […]

LARGE FINANCIAL CORPORATIONS CONTINUE ILLEGAL ACTIVITY

ABSTRACT: The large US financial corporations, whose illegal and unethical activities caused the 2008 financial crash and recession, continue to engage in a wide variety of illegal activity. Clearly, the fines and penalties they’ve paid to-date, although hundreds of millions of dollars, haven’t been sufficient to deter them. Or they are so large and so […]

BANNING BEE KILLING PESTICIDES

ABSTRACT: Pesticides and other toxic chemicals are ubiquitous in our environment and even in our blood. Regulation of them is weak. One of the unintended consequences of widespread pesticide use is the harming or killing of animals, other than those targeted. Last month, 50,000 bumblebees died after a spraying of the pesticide dinotefuran. The class […]

FINANCIAL SYSTEM REFORM

ABSTRACT: The need for financial system reform was made clear by the 2008 crash. One of the goals of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law was to end speculative trading by large financial corporations that are also banks because it has the potential to jeopardize consumer deposits. However, speculative trading has continued. Therefore, a tri-partisan group […]

OVERSIGHT OF FINANCIAL CORPORATIONS – PETITIONS YOU CAN SIGN

INTRO: The need for strong oversight of our large financial corporations was made starkly clear by their collapse in 2008. Nonetheless, necessary changes have not happened. The six huge financial corporations are bigger than ever, despite concern that they were too big to fail back in 2008. News of illegal activity in the financial sector […]

VOTING RIGHTS AT RISK

ABSTRACT: Judicial activism by the conservative majority of the Supreme Court was on display on June 25 when by a 5 to 4 vote the Voting Rights Act (VRA) was ruled outdated and unnecessary despite: 1) Previous Supreme Court rulings upholding the law including as recently as 2009; 2) Use of the Voting Rights Act […]

OBSTRUCTIONISM AND EXTREMISM BLOCK PROGRESS IN THE US HOUSE

ABSTRACT: While the use of the filibuster in the US Senate gets more attention, the obstructionism and extremism in the US House is more insidious. And it is no less harmful. One of the tactics in the House is the so-called “Hastert rule.” It stipulates that no piece of legislation will be voted on unless […]

A RESPITE FROM OBSTRUCTIONISM

ABSTRACT: The US Senate reached a bipartisan agreement that ended the obstruction of confirmation for seven of the President’s nominees for executive branch positions. Votes will be held before the August recess on these seven nominees. To obtain this concession, Senate Democrats threatened to change the filibuster rule to prevent its use on executive branch […]

BLOCKING JUDICIAL NOMINATIONS

ABSTRACT: Senate Republicans have delayed and filibustered President Obama’s nominees to fill vacant judgeships nationwide, resulting in 87 vacancies for federal judges, 10% of the total judgeships. Even when President Obama goes out of his way to nominate what would seem to be uncontroversial choices with bipartisan support, Senate Republicans have blocked and delayed confirmation. […]

BLOCKING EXECUTIVE BRANCH APPOINTMENTS

ABSTRACT: The willingness of some Republicans to impede the effective functioning of the federal government has extended to consistent efforts to block or delay the President’s nominees to fill positions in the Executive Branch. Senate Republicans have filibustered, threatened to filibuster, or have otherwise delayed a number of Obama’s selections for cabinet posts, including the […]

IDEOLOGY, OBSTRUCTIONISM, AND MAKING GOVERNMENT WORK

ABSTRACT: Democrats believe in making government work. Republicans, at least many current ones, don’t exhibit a commitment to making government work. They block legislation and an unprecedented number and breadth of Presidential appointments, including judges and cabinet secretaries. Rigid ideology and extreme partisanship are drivers of the gridlock: many Republicans seem willing to use any […]

OUR TOXIC ENVIRONMENT AND WHAT YOU CAN DO

ABSTRACT: On a societal level, a disproportionate burden of toxic pollution is borne by Americans of color. At the specific level, every day skin care products contain toxic chemicals. Many contain formaldehyde (a known carcinogen), phthalates (linked to hormonal disruption and birth defects), and/or parabens (which mimic the hormone estrogen and have been linked to […]

CHILDREN AND TOXINS

ABSTRACT: Children are continuously exposed to many toxic chemicals. None of the over 75,000 synthetic chemicals in use in the US are regulated based on their potential to affect children. Chemicals in a mother’s blood can cause a preterm birth or even a miscarriage, and do get into her fetus’s blood. After birth, breast milk […]

BLOCKING REGULATION OF TOXINS

ABSTRACT: Corporations with a financial interest in the use and sale of toxic chemicals are engaged in a major, multi-faceted effort to prevent, weaken, and delay regulation. They work to prevent clear, unbiased, scientific information from being available to our policy makers and the public. They engage in efforts to affect the regulatory process – […]

THE REAL SCANDAL BEHIND THE IRS “SCANDAL”

ABSTRACT: Overwhelmed IRS employees, trying to sort through hundreds of applications for tax exempt status to identify ones that should be rejected because they were political rather than true social welfare organizations, used search terms that may have been tilted toward identifying conservative groups, although there were terms used that are neutral or tilted toward […]

HOW AND WHY TOXINS ARE IN YOUR BLOOD

ABSTRACT: The dozens of toxic chemicals we all have in our blood are there because they are in the clothes we wear; the toys, furniture, fabrics, paint, and construction materials in our homes; the cleaning and personal care products we use; and the containers for our food and beverages. They are in all these places […]

REDUCING GUN VIOLENCE

ABSTRACT: There’s good news and bad news after the recent obstruction by filibustering in the US Senate of a law to reduce gun violence. Information on the votes in the Senate and how to contact your Senators (and Representatives) is below. Efforts to reduce gun violence are getting unprecedented attention. Four states have recently passed […]

FIXING THE SEQUESTER’S BUDGET CUTS

ABSTRACT: The impacts of the $85 billion, 5% across the board budget cuts that went into effect on March 1st (known as the Sequester) are being felt. The cuts to air traffic controllers caused flight delays, so Congress acted with rarely seen speed to provide funding for them. However, other impacts of the sequester, which […]

SOCIAL SECURITY AND CHAINED CPI

ABSTRACT: In his federal government budget, President Obama has proposed cutting future Social Security benefits. He has done so in a way that is probably meant to obscure this fact. The Social Security Administration estimates that the result would be a 5% cut in benefits over every 12 year period. It would not reduce the […]

CUTTING SPENDING TO REDUCE THE DEFICIT Part 2

ABSTRACT: Medicare and Medicaid do present significant funding challenges. This is because they reflect the costs of our health care system, which spends 2 ½ times what other advanced economies spend on average – and our health outcomes are worse. Obamacare takes initial steps to make our whole health care system more cost effective. One […]

CUTTING SPENDING TO REDUCE THE DEFICIT

ABSTRACT: A deal was reached to address the year-end “fiscal cliff” or austerity crisis. Spending cuts were postponed for two months and most of the tax increases were eliminated, while some tax and revenue increases were enacted. The deficit reduction focus will now largely shift to spending cuts. We should be focusing on job creation […]

REBUTTING ARGUMENTS AGAINST INCREASING INCOME TAXES ON THE WEALTHY

ABSTRACT: The Bush tax cuts, and the even larger cuts in the income tax rates for high incomes over the last 30 years, have contributed to creating the federal government’s deficit (see post of 12/22/12) and to dramatically widening income and wealth inequality in the U.S. There has been a dramatic shift of the tax […]

INCREASING REVENUE TO CUT THE DEFICIT

ABSTRACT: Increased revenue needs to be part of the effort to reduce the federal government’s budget deficit. Two revenue sources that are not included in the austerity package are closing corporate tax loopholes and enacting a financial transactions tax. They could eliminate over half the deficit with little negative impact on the economy.  The highest […]

STOP THE GUN MASSACRES

ABSTRACT: Gun massacres must stop. We must enact sensible gun laws. Automatic weapons with magazines that hold over a dozen bullets turn tragic murder into horrifying massacre. Sensible gun laws would make a difference; they lead to much lower gun violence in other countries, and the federal assault weapon ban made a difference in the […]

A MANUFACTURED AUSTERITY CRISIS, NOT A FISCAL CLIFF

ABSTRACT: The so-called fiscal cliff you’ve been hearing so much about is actually a manufactured austerity crisis. There is widespread agreement that if nothing is changed by or relatively soon after December 31 that our economy is extremely likely to fall into a recession and unemployment is likely to increase to over 9%, an increase […]

IRRATIONAL EXTREMISM BLOCKS PROGRESS

ABSTRACT: The irrational extremism associated with the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party has just blocked progress for disabled people around the world by defeating ratification of a treaty. Radical Republicans used scare tactics and lies to defeat it. They ignored the support of 61 Senators including John McCain, of former President G. W. […]

CAMPAIGN SPENDING: THE FUTURE

ABSTRACT: The huge sums of money in our political system are corrupting it, in subtle and not so subtle ways, and are undermining the promise of democracy of, by, and for the people. We the people need to work to blunt the impact and eventually stop the flow of these huge amounts of money. Steps […]

CANDIDATES’ BUDGET PROPOSALS AND THE DEFICIT

ABSTRACT: Both Presidential candidates, Obama and Romney, have put forward tax and budget proposals that they say will reduce the deficit. Obama’s tax and spending proposals would reduce the deficit by about one quarter. Romney’s proposals cannot be reasonably expected to reduce the deficit. Furthermore, they are likely to increase the deficit and the already […]

PRIVATIZATION EXAMPLES I

ABSTRACT: Currently, privatization of public sector functions is being looked to to generate badly needed immediate cash. First example: the city of Chicago, desperate for cash to cover a budget shortfall, sold its parking meter revenue for the next 75 years for $1.2 billion. Parking rates in some neighborhoods have quadrupled. The city is prohibited […]

AN OVERVIEW OF PRIVATIZATION

ABSTRACT: Privatization of public services or “outsourcing” has been promoted for decades as a way to save taxpayers money, improve public services, and increase public sector accountability. A resurgence is occurring as the public sector is being squeezed by falling revenues and rising costs. In this environment, privatization is often looked to to generate badly […]

THE “FISCAL CLIFF” AND THE ECONOMY

ABSTRACT: The federal budget’s “fiscal cliff” is looming on December 31, 2012. If Congress and the President let us fall over its edge, it will significantly harm our fragile economy. It cuts annual spending by about $100 billion per year and increases taxes by about $350 billion per year. The result would be a significant […]

OUR SLOW ECONOMIC RECOVERY

ABSTRACT: Our economy is recovering slowly, as would be expected after such a deep recession and the near collapse of the financial system. Most economists agree that the federal government’s stimulus package aided the recovery by increasing employment by about 3 million jobs. Since the recovery began in 2009, the private sector has added 4.5 […]

WHY WE NEED STRONG REGULATION

ABSTRACT: A fierce battle is occurring over government regulation. Key arguments against regulation are that corporations will regulate themselves and that the discipline of free market capitalism will punish bad corporate behavior and reward good behavior. The series of scandals in our large banks have clearly proven these arguments are wrong. And there are many […]

DODD-FRANK & CFPB ANNIVERSARIES

ABSTRACT: We have just reached the second anniversary of the passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and the first anniversary of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that it created. Much has been accomplished despite efforts of the financial industry and some in Congress to block, weaken, and/or delay progress. […]

FIXING THE FILIBUSTER

Here’s issue #36 of my Policy and Politics Newsletter, written 6/15/12. The previous issue outlined the abuse of the filibuster [1] and its impact on the gridlock in Congress. This issue focuses on what can be done about it. The requirement for 60 votes to end debate and stop a filibuster is part of the […]

THE FILIBUSTER: WEAPON OF OBSTRUCTION

Here’s issue #35 of my Policy and Politics Newsletter, written 6/10/12. It focuses on the filibuster as an important problem contributing to the gridlock in Congress. The use of the filibuster [1] – or the threat of a filibuster – by the minority party in the Senate to block action has become much more frequent […]

WHY GRIDLOCK IN D.C.?

Here’s issue #31 of my Policy and Politics Newsletter, written 5/20/12. Just about everyone is concerned about the political and policy gridlock in our federal government. This issue of the newsletter takes a look at why this is happening. The Washington Post published an article on April 27 that is the best piece I’ve seen […]

SPURRING ECONOMIC RECOVERY

Here’s issue #30 of my Policy and Politics Newsletter, written 5/15/12. The US government budget process and the elections in Europe have focused attention on how government can best spur economic recovery. There are basically two schools of thought on how governments can spur economic recovery: Austerity: cut spending, raise taxes, and have tight monetary […]

GOVERNMENTS’ ROLES

Here’s issue #27 of my Policy and Politics Newsletter, written 4/22/12. After a bit of a hiatus from the newsletter while I was on vacation, I’m back with an issue that looks at the role of government in our economy and society. Our federal and state governments play important roles in supporting people and our […]